Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Concerts; Two Revelations

I went to two shows last night. The first was an electric blues band called Back Door Slam performing at the Mercury Lounge. Their publicist urged me to check them out. Usually, I let publicists play the "you've got to see this" card once or twice a year. Some try to use it with every single project and you learn to ignore them. Others know they'll earn your trust if they play that card only when they really mean it. This publicist had probably never really pushed me to see an act before, so I gave it a shot.

My friend Noam and I arrived and went back to the concert area...which was virtually empty. We sat on the couch along the wall as a few people wandered in for their 8 p.m. set. I said, "Wouldn't it be fun if they blew us away?" And darned if they didn't. The three kids I thought were techies were in fact the band. All of them about 21, with the lead singer Davy looking like he was still in high school. While they were still goofing around before the show, the bassist tickled the lead singer from behind, who jumped five feet in the air and then they laughed and he offered a hug which the bassist mock accepted but then walked away before delivering. Then they wandered onstage and the sweet looking Davy (who looks like he should be starring on a show on Nickelodeon) started singing and out of his mouth leaped the voice of a 60 year old blues singer, confident, raspy, commanding and electric. His guitar playing was equally assured. They performed some originals, a cover of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, a 30s blues number I didn't catch and all of it was just a blast. Davy indulges in some flashy pyrotechnics, but if you can't do that when you're 21, when the heck can you? But they were very, very disciplined and like all promising blues acts, you can only assume they'll deepen and get even better over the years. The next coming of Stevie Ray Vaughan? An absolutely earned comparison after seeing them live. The bassist had some seriously long fingers and was delightfully unperturbed throughout the show -- a real rock, just like the drummer. This is a really good power trio I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone looking to have sweaty, rowdy fun right now. (Wear ear plugs; they do!) And their potential is sky high. Here's hoping these three guys stay and play together for a long time to come.

I followed Back Door Slam (which sounds like gay slang for giving your boyfriend the cold shoulder when he's done something wrong) with Ann Hampton Callaway at the Blue Note. I expected her to be terrific and she was. This time I was joined by my friend TJ, who was a bit under the weather but soldiered on anyway. The Blue Note was filled with its usual complement of Japanese tourists, some Latin lady in the back who kept shouting out comments and jazz purists. I can't really love the Blue Note -- you'll drop $50 for a 40 minute set and then get shoved out the door, but it's a great little space. Callaway had a sleepy summer audience but delivered like a pro. A delightful set capped by her party trick of writing a song on the spot using phrases shouted out by the audience. But what sticks with me is her masterful rendition of "Lush Life," probably the mos difficult standard to sing. Period. She made it look easy.

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